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Employee Retention: Organisational and Personal Perspectives

Article  in  Vocations and Learning · November 2009

DOI: 10.1007/s12186-009-9024-7


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Eva Kyndt Filip Dochy

University of Antwerp KU Leuven


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Vocations and Learning
DOI 10.1007/s12186-009-9024-7

Employee Retention: Organisational

and Personal Perspectives

Eva Kyndt & Filip Dochy & Maya Michielsen &

Bastiaan Moeyaert

Received: 19 November 2008 / Accepted: 16 June 2009

# Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Abstract In this continuously changing contemporary economy, companies have to

be able to anticipate technological innovations and to compete with other companies
worldwide. This need makes important a company’s ability to evolve through its
employees’ learning and through continuous development. Securing and retaining
skilled employees plays an important role in this process, because employees’
knowledge and skills are central to companies’ ability to be economically
competitive. Given that employee retention is very important for the functioning
and competitiveness of a company, this study focuses on the organisational and
personal factors that influence employee retention. A special interest is taken in
employees’ learning, because this is seen as a retention supporting activity. A
questionnaire was administered to 349 employees, and 11 employees were
interviewed. The interviews are used to illustrate and contextualise the quantitative
results. The results show a large positive contribution of appreciation and stimulation
of the employee to employee retention. This result is consistent with findings of
earlier research. However, the retention benefits arising from personal development
offer new possibilities when attempting to enhance employee retention. This study
also showed that individual differences influence employee retention. Leadership
skills and seniority have a positive relationship with employee retention and the level
of readiness and initiative regarding learning are negatively related to retention.

Keywords Employee retention . Learning attitude . Learning and working climate

E. Kyndt (*) : F. Dochy

Centre for Research on Teaching and Training, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Dekenstraat 2,
Box 3772, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

F. Dochy : M. Michielsen : B. Moeyaert

Centre for Educational Research on Lifelong Learning and Participation, Katholieke Universiteit
Leuven, Dekenstraat 2, Box 3772, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
E. Kyndt et al.

Employee Development and Retention

The contemporary global economic environment has changed drastically and continues to
do so. Social developments such as continuing globalisation, technological innovation,
and growing global competition place pressure on companies and emphasise their need to
maintain their competitive edge (Burke and Ng 2006), at least in part through maintaining
the skills of their employees. Companies have to be able to anticipate technological
innovation and be able to compete with other companies worldwide. This need makes
important a company’s ability to evolve through the continuous learning and
development of the employees. Having and retaining skilled employees plays an
important role in this process, because employees’ knowledge and skills have become
the key for companies to be economically competitive (Hiltrop 1999). Therefore, it is
important that employers give employees the opportunity to develop and learn (Arnold
2005; Bernsen et al. 2009; Herman 2005) such that the workers maintain their capacities
as effective employees, resist redundancy, and are retained by their companies. Beyond
these economic pressures, companies also face some disturbing demographic changes.
The average age of employees in Western countries is increasing constantly. In addition,
the workers of the so called baby boom generation are gradually retiring (Burke and Ng
2006; Frank et al. 2004). With the retirement of this generation is a significant loss of
skills and other capacities which are not being easily replaced by simply hiring new
employees. The ending of the careers of the baby boom generation means that
companies lose competence (i.e. knowledge, and skills), all of which are essential in the
current economic environment in which companies have to compete (Hiltrop 1999).
Companies expect that the proportional rise in the ageing population will lead to a
global competition for the ‘best’ employees. This ‘competition’ will be the most intense
in the search for Chief Executive Officers (CEO) (Conner 2000; Harvey and Richey
2001). CEOs are considered by some to be the most important assets of a company.
The fact that the majority of the current CEOs belong to the baby boom generation
means that a shortage in the near future is highly likely. Companies with policies that
are future oriented and strategic might be aware of this problem and can take action to
address it. For instance, they may develop practices to identify, select, develop, and
retain promising employees in order to ensure the presence of necessary skilled
workers who can secure the quality and quantity of the goods or services they provide,
and who can maintain their competitive advantage. These companies may also focus
on employees with high potential who might have the ability to take on a higher
(executive) function in the future (Dries and Pepermans 2008; Pepermans et al. 2003).
The increasing global competition for the ‘best’ employees brought about by the
shortfall in new workforce entrants in many advanced industrial economies makes
essential companies’ ability to ensure that their employees will keep on working for them
in order to maintain their competitive advantage. However, a large, and perhaps growing,
number of employees nowadays do not want a traditional career within one company
(Burke and Ng 2006). Consequently, they are less loyal and more opportunistic than
workers in the past (Burke and Ng 2006; Hiltrop 1999). According to numbers provided
by SD Worx, a large Belgian human resource and payroll company, in 2007 there was an
employee turnover rate of approximately 17.46% in Belgium. For employees younger
than 25 years, the employee turnover rate was 39% (SD Worx 2008). This statistic
illustrates the fact that the employees of the ‘new’ generation at work do not have/want a
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives

traditional career within the same company to the same extent as their older colleagues,
and possibly have a greater choice in pursuing careers across companies. It follows that
companies now have to make increasing efforts to retain their skilled employees. Losing
such employees means a loss of investment in that employee and that a new employee
has to be recruited and trained. Moreover, when skilled employees leave a company,
they can take a lot of know-how with them, and thus the company is at risk of losing
confidential information to competitors (Frank et al. 2004; Walker 2001).
Given that employee retention has proven to be important for the functioning of a
company, this study focuses on the factors that are of influence in terms of employee
retention. A special interest is taken in employees’ learning, this learning has a
strong positive effect on retention (e.g., Echols 2007; Gershwin 1996; Rodriguez
2008). Rodriguez (2008, p. 53) claims:
If employees feel they aren’t learning and growing, they feel they are not
remaining competitive with their industry peers for promotion opportunities
and career advancement. Once top employees feel they are no longer growing,
they begin to look externally for new job opportunities.
Moreover, Collin (2009) found that learning and a work-related identity are
related to one another in many ways, and, according to Dewey (1916), an
individual’s identity is formed by, among other things, that person’s vocation.
Dewey (1916) refers to a vocation as a calling that is central to an individual’s
identity. Furthermore, Collin’s (2009) findings suggest that, besides the relationship
between learning and the construction of a work-related identity, there also exists a
relationship between organisational commitment and various learning processes.
This study investigates the learning and working climate as well as the learning
attitude of employees. Because companies tend to focus on developing and retaining
workers with high potential, it is important to know whether a difference exists between
what support is afforded those kinds of employees compared with other employees. In
making its case, the paper progresses as follows. Firstly, a theoretical background is
provided in which the relevant concepts are defined and interrelationships that have been
identified in the literature are explored. What is proposed here is that separately, but most
importantly in combination, personal and workplace factors shape the prospects for
employee retention. In particular, two polar approaches—the gap and the appreciative
approach—are critiqued. Secondly, research questions, hypotheses, and methods are
described, justified, and explained. After presenting the results of the analysis, the paper
elaborates upon and discusses the meaning and implications of these results.

Conceptualising Approaches to Employee Development and Retention

Employee Retention

Previous research has identified several factors that have an influence on employee
retention. A first important indicator of employee retention is their organisational
commitment (Curtis and Wright 2001).
Employees with a high organisational commitment are those who have a strong
identification with the organisation, value the sense of membership within it,
E. Kyndt et al.

agree with its objectives and value systems, are likely to remain in it and,
finally, are prepared to work hard on its behalf. (Curtis and Wright 2001, p. 60)

This commitment is influenced by the organisation’s norms and practices,

especially the organisational climate (Kaliprasad 2006), and is not job specific
(Bashaw and Grant 1994). Next to organisational commitment, personal commit-
ment and the compliance with reciprocal obligations are important (Hytter 2007).
Consequently, there is a need to consider both organisational and personal factors in
considering employee retention.
Several studies have investigated the relationship between job satisfaction and
turnover and found a clear negative relationship (e.g., Cotton and Tuttle 1986;
Muchinsky and Morrow 1980; Tett and Meyer 1993; Trevor 2001), meaning that
when employees do not feel satisfied in their job, the turnover is high and they are
likely to leave the company. Walker (2001) identified seven factors that can enhance
employee retention: (i) compensation and appreciation of the performed work, (ii)
provision of challenging work, (iii) chances to be promoted and to learn, (iv)
invitational atmosphere within the organisation, (v) positive relations with
colleagues, (vi) a healthy balance between the professional and personal life, and
(viii) good communications. Together, these suggest a set of workplace norms and
practices that might be taken as inviting employee engagement. Hytter (2007) found
that the personal premises of loyalty, trust, commitment, and identification and
attachment with the organisation have a direct influence on employee retention. She
also demonstrated that workplace factors such as rewards, leadership style, career
opportunities, the training and development of skills, physical working conditions,
and the balance between professional and personal life have an indirect influence
(Hytter 2007). Moreover, Tang et al. (2000) found that earning more money has only
an indirect influence on employee retention; it is of influence when the job
satisfaction of an employee is low. Other researchers confirm that effective training
and opportunities to learn and develop enhance employee retention (Arnold 2005;
Herman 2005; Hiltrop 1999). High integrity and involvement on the part of the
manager, empowerment, responsibility, and new possibilities/challenges are also
important for employee retention (Birt et al. 2004). Finally, the positive influence of
work experience and tenure has been confirmed by other researchers (Gunz and
Gunz 2007). Birt et al. (2004) also found that the perception and experience of the
employees with regard to these factors has the greatest influence on employee
retention. Despite the fact that a company may try to bring all these factors into play
to enhance employee retention, an employee can still choose to leave the workplace
because of, for example, bad management (Kaliprasad 2006).
The relationship of different personal variables such as age, gender, number of
children, and level of education to employee retention have yet to be fully
investigated. However, a clear negative relationship has been found between the level
of education and organisational commitment (Angle and Perry 1983; Glisson and
Durick 1988). Expectations are that the level of education will relate to employee
retention in a similar manner, since organisational commitment is an important
positive indicator for employee retention (Curtis and Wright 2001). Research on the
relationship between age and gender on the one hand, and job satisfaction and
organisational commitment on the other, has not resulted in a clear conclusion.
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives

Learning and Working Climate

In the literature, more and more attention has been paid to the learning and working
climate (e.g., Birt et al. 2004; Bouwmans 2006; Verheijen 2005; Visser 2001). In
considering this issue through the literature, the distinction between workplaces
adopting a ‘gap’ and an ‘appreciative’ approach has been made.
In a company with a ‘gap’ approach in terms of organisational development (i.e.,
a gap between the skills needed and those available in the workplace), change and
development happen because a problem needs to be solved (Verheijen 2005). This
gap approach emphasizes what is wrong or what does not function well in the
organisation, constituting a deficit model. It is based on the assumption that
organisations are machines and, consequently, broken parts can be fixed or replaced.
To solve problems employees are retrained from less skilled to more skilled, so that
the organisational goals which were formulated in advance can be fulfilled. It is
assumed that everyone can become somewhat competent in almost everything, and
that weak points give the most opportunities to grow (Verheijen 2005). Problems can
be fixed by following a step-by-step plan consisting of four parts (Visser 2001).
Firstly, a problem is identified; an actual need has to be experienced. Secondly, a
thorough analysis of the possible causes is undertaken. Thirdly, possible solutions
are explored, and, finally, an action plan is developed. Visser (2001) states that this
approach often leads to short-term solutions and often misses important topics,
thereby causing new problems and worsening the initial situation (Visser 2001).
Hence, a deficit attributed to skill shortages is to be redressed by a linear rational
approach to skill development focusing on skills rather than the employees’
vocations, as Dewey (1916) would have preferred.
The ‘appreciative’ approach is based on the assumption that the basis for the
desired future is already present within the company (Cooperrider et al. 2007;
Verheijen 2005). It is a person-centred approach, perhaps more in keeping with what
Dewey (1916) proposed and is in contrast to the gap approach, which assumes that
weak points can be transformed into strong points. The appreciative approach
focuses on positive topics (Van der Haar and Hosking 2004). Employees appear to
participate much more fully and effortfully when they can do more of what they are
good at (Bouwmans 2006), and are interested in. Moreover, when applying an
appreciative approach, a feeling of continuity is intended to arise in ways that avoid
negative reactions and indifference. Visser (2001) and Rowden (2002) state that
when employees are directly involved in organisational development, their
participation is likely to increase. This participation contributes to the durable
character of the organisational development and may arise from a continuous
dialogue between employees concerning their mutual future, which enhances
cooperation and team spirit (Hoogenboom 2002).
Five key distinctions can be made between the gap and the appreciative
approaches. The first distinction is related to the selection procedure. The
appreciative approach is interested in future employees’ strengths that can make
the company stronger, while the gap approach looks for a match between the
shortages in the company and the competence of the future employees. A second
distinction concerns the development of the organisation and the individual, and the
motives for change. The appreciative approach focuses on what can make the
E. Kyndt et al.

company successful. Individuals are supported in following their interests and in

further developing their strengths (Cooperrider et al. 2007) in so far as they
broadly contribute to the company. Within the gap approach, a problem that
prevents the accomplishment of the organisational goals is the reason for change.
Training of employees is possible only when there is a shortage in competence or
skills. The third distinction is related to the way problems are solved within the
company. The appreciative approach allows and even desires employees to take
the initiative, while the gap approach relies on already existing rules and
procedures. The appreciation of employees is a fourth area where the two
approaches can be differentiated. The appreciative approach appreciates employees
for their strengths and initiative, while the gap approach appreciates employees for
fulfilling the expectations of the company. The final distinction concerns the
degree of stimulation of reflection by the organisation and the content of those
reflection processes. When these reflection processes focus on deficiencies, the gap
approach is more dominant within the organisation. The appreciative approach
focuses more on the strengths of the employees and is more directed towards new
In summary, an appreciative learning and working climate contributes positively
to employee retention because it makes people feel acknowledged for their
strengths and it creates possibilities to develop people’s qualities (Cooperrider et
al. 2007; Visser 2001). This approach is consistent with what Dewey (1916)
proposed about the importance of having a personal trajectory as part of the
concept of vocation. The gap approach may lead to a decrease in motivation and
engagement on the part of the employees and, thus, reduce employee retention
(Visser 2001). It has to be noted that, in particular, the way employees perceive and
experience the working and learning climate is found to be important for their
retention (Birt et al. 2004). This finding underlines the need to consider both
personal and organisational factors in considering initiatives to enhance the retention
of skilled employees.

High Potential Employees

Understandably, the retention and further development of highly skilled (or valued)
employees is often the key priority in terms of a company’s human resource
management strategy (Dibble 1999). Some companies have in place strategic
policies to respond to the upcoming global competition for the most skilled
employees, which include looking to the future. Presciently, Dibble (1999, p.3)
suggested “If you think that it is hard to retain your employees now, be aware that in
the future it will be worse.” Therefore, such companies may focus not only on high
achievers at the present time, but also on those with potential to become high
performance in the future. High potential employees are defined as those who are
recognised by senior management as persons with the potential to fulfil an executive
function within the company (Cope 1998; Dries and Pepermans 2008; Pepermans et
al. 2003). The potential of these employees is such as these may differ from high
achievers because the term potential denotes possibilities, promise, and latent action
(Altman 1997). The scarce literature concerning high potential employees suggests
that these employees have multiple characteristics: intelligence, team spirit,
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives

negotiation skills, social skills, and proactivity (e.g., Conner 2000; Lombardo and
Eichinger 2000; Pepermans et al. 2003; Snipes 2005). Further, other research studies
have consistently found a number of characteristics: creativity (Pepermans et al.
2003), leadership skills (Pepermans et al. 2003), learning potential (Conner 2000;
Lombardo and Eichinger 2000), and autonomy (Dries and Pepermans 2008; Snipes
2005). These characteristics can, therefore, be seen as possible core characteristics of
high potential employees. Finally, some general characteristics are associated with
high potential employees; these characteristics are the ability to cope with stress,
flexibility, and the courage to take risks (Pepermans et al. 2003).
Previous research has shown that high potentials, in general, have a strong
organisational commitment (Bennis and Nannus 1985; Dries and Pepermans 2007),
and have a more traditional career path than do other employees, because companies
prefer an internal successor when it comes to top management functions. This
preference causes companies to invest more in these high potential employees than
in other employees (Dries and Pepermans 2008). In summary, the literature shows
that high potential employees are employees who are likely to become the future
leaders of an organisation because they possess several core characteristics like
creativity, autonomy, being able to cope with stress, et cetera. Since it is common for
companies to invest more in these high potential employees than in other employees
(Cope 1998; Dries and Pepermans 2008), it is expected that these employees will
have a relatively high employee retention rate.

The Present Study

The present study focuses on the factors which have an influence on employee
retention. Both organisational and personal factors are taken into account. On the
organisational side, the focus will be on employees’ learning and working climate,
operationalised in terms of the two approaches discussed above: the gap and
appreciative approaches. The expectation is that these approaches will have a
different influence on employee retention, with an appreciative approach contribut-
ing positively, and a gap approach, negatively, to employee retention. On the
personal side, we have speculated about the relationship between being a high
potential employee and employee retention. The influence of level of education,
number of children, seniority, age, and gender on employee retention is also
investigated. It is expected that high potential employees will have a higher
employee retention rate than non-high potential employees, because companies
invest more in high potential employees and they experience more responsibility,
career opportunities, and self-steering. The level of education is also expected to
have a negative relation with employee retention because of its negative relationship
with organisational commitment (Angle and Perry 1983; Glisson and Durick 1988).
A positive relationship of age and seniority with employee retention is expected,
consistent with Gunz and Gunz’s (2007) findings regarding the influence of tenure.
The association of gender and the number of children with employee retention will
be explored, since previous research does not offer a clear conclusion regarding
these relationships. These predictions are appraised through the research project, the
method and findings of which are reported below.
E. Kyndt et al.

Research Questions

To be effective in the current globally competitive economic environment,

companies want to know how they can keep their highly skilled employees as long
as possible, and need to understand the role that these employees’ learning plays in
their retention. This concern has been translated into the following question: ‘What
personal and organisational factors have an influence on employee retention?’ On
the basis of the theoretical background, this main question has been divided into
three research questions:
1. What is the relationship between the perception of the learning and working
climate, and employee retention?
2. What is the relationship between being a high potential and employee retention?
3. What is the relationship of the personal characteristics of level of education,
number of children, seniority, age, and gender to employee retention?



The sample in this study consisted of 349 employees from 57 different companies in
the private sector. The participants were 50% male (N=174) and 50% female (N=
175). The majority of the employees worked full-time (86.2%), only 8.9% worked
part-time, and 2.4% had a temporary contract. The remaining 2.6% indicated that
they were employed under another type of contract. For the qualitative part of the
research study, 11 respondents—6 males and 5 females—were interviewed. All 11
interviewees have a full-time contract.


The questionnaire on employee retention was constructed based on the literature and
previous research on the motivation of employees with regard to their jobs. Egan et
al. (2004) investigated the effects of the learning climate within the organisation and
job satisfaction on employee’s intentions to stay within the information technology
(IT) sector. To measure intention to stay, the researchers used three items: “I intend
to change job within this firm in the foreseeable future”, “I intend to seek IT related
work at another firm in the foreseeable future”, and “I intend to seek work in a
profession other than IT in the foreseeable future”. These items were adjusted for
this study. Participants were also asked if they would like to keep on working for
their current employer and if they would look within the company when they wanted
to change jobs or functions. Another point of interest was whether employees
believed that they had future prospects within the company and if they were
motivated in their job. The items were based on the operationalisations used in
previous research (e.g., Arnold 2005; Hytter 2007; Kassim 2006; Lindsey and
Kleiner 2005; Stone and Liyanearachchi 2006; Whitt 2006). For example, items
included: “I foresee a future for myself within this company” or “It doesn’t matter if
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives

I work for this company or another, as long as I have work”. In total, 12 items were
formulated to measure employee retention intentions.
To measure the learning and work climate, 15 items from the questionnaire used
by Bernsen et al. (2009) were selected. These items were used to examine the
employee’s perception of the guidance at the workplace (understanding, interest, and
attention and advice from executives), the pressure of workload, and the freedom of
choice concerning tasks. Twenty-seven items were formulated on the basis of the
differences discussed earlier between the gap and the appreciative approaches in
order to examine employees’ perceptions of the dominant approach used in their
company. For example, items included: “There is too much work to do in this
company”, “In this company they believe in me”, or “Most of time we rely on
prescribed rules and procedures to solve a problem”.
Since, in general, employers are not willing to release information about their
high potentials (Dries and Pepermans 2008), the employees themselves were
questioned. Twenty-eight items were formulated to examine if employees perceived
themselves to have the qualities that characterize a high potential. High potentials
were identified based on the characteristics of creativity, leadership skills, autonomy,
initiative, learning potential, and being stress proof (Conner 2000; Dries and
Pepermans 2008; Lombardo and Eichinger 2000; Pepermans et al. 2003; Snipes
2005). Items concerning being a high potential included: “In a team I easily take on
the role of leader” or “I’m able to make good decisions when I’m under pressure”.
Participants scored all 82 items on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). All questionnaires included in the present study were
translated from English to Flemish, the participants’ mother tongue, according to the
guidelines of the International Test Commission (Hambleton 1994).


An interview guideline was developed based on and analogous to the premises for
the questionnaire. The interviews were semistructured, leaving room for additional
questions and topics. Each interview took aproximately 45 min. Because of the small
number of interviewed employees, the qualitative data will be used in an illustrative
and contextualised manner.


Two explorative factor analyses of the quantitative data were performed to reduce
the number of variables and to look for underlying constructs in the data. The
validity of the constructs and the reliability of the scales were tested using data from
the current sample. A first factor analysis was performed for the dependent variable
of employee retention, and the second factor analysis was performed for the
independent variables learning and working climate and high potentials. The data for
the factor analysis of employee retention have a determinant of 0.004, a Kaiser-
Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy of 0.90, and a Bartlett’s test of
sphericity with a significance of p=0.000. The data for the second factor analysis of
learning and working climate and high potentials have a determinant of 0.000, a
Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy of 0.88, and a Bartlett’s test of
E. Kyndt et al.

sphericity with a significance of p=0.000. These statistics shows that the data are
suitable for factor analysis.
Next, correlations between the different variables were calculated to explore the
cohesion between the variables. Finally, a multiple stepwise linear regression was
used to determine the relation between the independent variables and the dependent
variable of employee retention. Both backward and forward stepwise regression
analyses were performed to examine the stability of the model.


After an overview of the results of the factor analyses, each of those pertaining to the
research questions are elaborated. Overall, the factor analysis of the items measuring
employee retention resulted in one factor that explains 49.13% of the variance
(α=.91). The item “If I would win the lottery or inherit an important amount of
money so that I can live comfortable, I would stop working” had to be dropped since
it did not load significantly on the factor of employee retention. An important
additional element that came out of the qualitative data and that is not reflected by
the single factor is that some respondents made a distinction between commitment
to the company and commitment to the field of work. A high level of either type
of commitment is positively related to employee retention. When there is mainly a
commitment with the field of work, respondents do not rule out leaving the
company when a more interesting offer occurs. “When another company can offer
me the same conditions and something on top of that. Yes then … […] but I am
not looking actively myself.” Another respondent said: “Today I mainly feel
connected with the subject. Not yet really with the company. I enjoy working here,
it is a very pleasant culture to work in, but I would also be able to do this in
another company.”
The second factor analysis of the items measuring learning and working climate
and high potentials resulted in five factors that explains 44.77% of the variance. The
first factor, Appreciation and Stimulation, (α=.94) explains 16.91% of the variance
and contains items concerning appreciative climate and stimulation of personal
development. The second factor is Leadership Skills (α=.89). The items loading on
this factor elicited data about employees’ communication competence, stress
proneness, and interest in taking up a leader’s role within the organisation.
Leadership Skills explains 10.03% of the variance. The third factor is called
Pressure of Work (α=.88) and explains 6.59% of the variance. All items concern
pressure of work. The fourth factor, Following Procedures (α=.81), contains items
about the procedures, rules, and working methods within the organisation. It
explains 6.10% of the variance. The fifth and last factor is called Learning Attitude
(α=.80) and explains 5.14% of the variance. The items concern readiness to learn
and the initiative to learn. An overview of all factor items and loadings can be found
in Appendix. The factors that came out of the second factor analysis for the
independent variables do not represent the two approaches with regard to the
learning and work climate as they were found in the literature. However, they do
represent aspects of the learning and work climate that can be attributed to one of the
two approaches.
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives

The multiple stepwise linear regression analysis was started with ten independent
variables and one dependent variable. During the regression, four variables were
excluded from the model: Following Procedures (t=1.707, p=.089, β In=.073), age
(t=1.167, p=.244, β In=.080), number of children (t=.758, p=.449, β In=.039),
and gender (t=.695, p=.487, β In=.030).
The final model is based on six variables that explain the dependent variable,
employee retention (see Table 1). The model has an explained variance of 52.4%
(F=52.098, df=(6, 272), p<.001). Appreciation and stimulation alone explains
44.9% of the variance, while the other variables add less.
Results concerning the first research question “What is the relationship between
the perception of the learning and working climate, and employee retention?” show a
significant positive influence of Appreciation and Stimulation on employee retention
(t=16.054, p<.001, β=.670). Especially important were recognition, sincere interest
in the employees and their work, and being stimulated, all of which were perceived
to be positive in terms of keeping on working in the company. The high β-
coefficient shows that Appreciation and Stimulation has a large predictive value for
the dependent variable, employee retention. This result is confirmed by the very
large correlation (ρ=.67, p<.01) between employee retention and Appreciation and
Stimulation. The importance of this factor is illustrated as follows by a respondent:
“I feel comfortable working for company X, I am being appreciated there. I am
being followed up by personnel management. I am making progress here so in that
way I do not have any reason to change.” Another aspect of the work and learning
climate is Pressure of Work. This factor showed a significant negative influence on
employee retention (t=−4.159, p<.001, β=−.190). In effect, the outcome means the

Table 1 Multiple stepwise linear regression: model summary

Model R R2 Adjusted R2 Std. error of estimate Change statistics

R2 change F change Df Sig. F change

1 .670a .449 .447 .74850775 .449 225.600 1, 277 .000

2 .685b .470 .466 .73542608 .021 10.942 1, 276 .001
3 .700c .491 .485 .72217415 .021 11.222 1, 275 .001
4 .710d .503 .496 .71433450 .013 7.069 1, 274 .008
5 .724e .525 .516 .70028005 .021 12.109 1, 273 .001
6 .731f .535 .524 .69403539 .010 5.935 1, 272 .015

Predictors: (Constant), Appreciation and Stimulation
Predictors: (Constant), Appreciation and Stimulation, Leadership Skills
Predictors: (Constant), Appreciation and Stimulation, Leadership Skills, Learning Attitude
Predictors: (Constant), Appreciation and Stimulation, Leadership Skills, Learning Attitude, Pressure of
Predictors: (Constant), Appreciation and Stimulation, Leadership Skills, Learning Attitude, Pressure of
Work, Seniority
Predictors: (Constant), Appreciation and Stimulation, Leadership Skills, Learning Attitude, Pressure of
Work, Seniority, Level of education
Dependent Variable: Employee Retention
E. Kyndt et al.

higher the pressure, the lower the level of employee retention. This conclusion is
confirmed by the significant negative correlation between Pressure of Work and
employee retention (ρ=−.12, p<.05). Several interviewees made negative associa-
tions with the pressure of work: “That’s why I work a lot of overtime … I need do to
do something about that, because either my psychological or physical health will
suffer, and for what?” and “We are working late in the evening here and work
weekends just to get our job done, not because we like it.” The final aspect of the
learning and working climate that came out of the factor analysis is Following
Procedures. The correlation between this factor and employee retention is not
significant and, as mentioned above, the variable was excluded from the model.
The second research question “What is the relationship between being a high
potential and employee retention?” cannot be answered with any confidence,
because the factor analysis did not provide a clear factor that captured the concept
‘high potential’. However, there are two factors, Leadership Skills and Learning
Attitude, that are associated with high potentials. On the one hand, Leadership Skills
(t=3.45, p<.01, β=.145) has a significant positive influence on employee retention.
If employees perceives themselves to be communicative and immune to stress and
they have the interest in taking on a leader’s role within the company, the likelihood
of employee retention will be relatively high. However, it is important to realise that
this concerns the perception of the employee, which can differ from the objective
reality. This finding supports the expectation that high potentials lead to a higher
employee retention rate. One interviewee, perceiving himself as reasonably immune
to stress, said: “I would not make the transition (to another company) just like that
because in itself it is going well here … I’m not actively looking for something
else.” But Learning Attitude has a negative influence on employee retention (t=
−2.044, p<.05, β=−.089). The more eager employees are to learn, the less they are
inclined to remain within the same company. This eagerness to learn, which is also
generally associated with high potential employees, leads to a decrease in employee
retention. A respondent illustrated this perfectly in his answer to the question “Did
you ever think about looking for a job with another company?” He said: “Yes, yes,
yes, yes in the beginning I have definitely thought that. I had the idea, I’m not
learning anything here, I’m doing too much administration ... and then I did some
job interviews”. Another respondent stated that he would keep on working for his
company “…as long as I get the chance to learn something new now and again”.
The correlations show the same results: Leadership Skills correlates significantly
positively with employee retention (ρ=.16, p<.01) and Learning Attitude correlates
negatively with employee retention (ρ=−.14, p<.05).
Finally, the third research question focuses on the relationship between the
personal characteristics of level of education, seniority, number of children and
gender on the one hand, and employee retention on the other. The multiple stepwise
regression showed a significant positive influence of seniority on employee retention
(t=2.907, p<.01, β=.139). Apparently, the longer employees work for a company,
the more they lean towards staying. One interviewee said “I love doing my job
(career) because I have developed it throughout the years”. The results show a
significant correlation between employee retention and both seniority (ρ=.16,
p<.01) and age (ρ=.19, p<.01). In the stepwise regression, age was excluded from
the model because of its high correlation with seniority (ρ=.78, p<.001). Level of
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives

education also had a significant influence on employee retention (t=−2.436, p<.05,

β=−.110). It appears that employees with a lower level of education have a greater
tendency to stay, than those with higher levels of education. However, the correlation
between these two variables was not significant. Besides age, gender and the number
of children were also excluded from the model. Gender and employee retention do
not correlate significantly, and, remarkably, the number of children and employee
retention do correlate significantly (ρ=.15, p<.01). All information regarding the
coefficients of the stepwise regression can be seen in Table 2.

Employees’ Learning and Retention

This investigation tentatively shows that the perception of the importance of learning
to employees and the quality of work climate is a strong predictor of employee
intentions to remain with their current employer. The finding that appreciation and
stimulation have a strong positive influence on employee retention in itself is not
surprising. It is in line with earlier findings regarding employee retention (Cotton
and Tuttle 1986; Muchinsky and Morrow 1980; Tett and Meyer 1993; Trevor 2001;
Walker 2001). However, because of its focus on learning, this research is able to add
something to our understanding of what motivates employees to consider leaving
their current employment. Other authors have mainly focused on appreciation as a
part of leadership, and have concluded that support, encouragement, respect, and an
opportunity to be heard by the direct supervisor enhance employee retention
(Butcher and Kritsonis 2007; Howard 1997; Howard and Gould 2000; Taylor 2004).
In this research, however, we have not focused on the direct supervisor or leader
alone. Rather, questions have been formulated for the entire organisation and the
climate in that organisation. Moreover, the factor derived from our statistical analysis
contains items regarding stimulation also contains items regarding, among other
things, stimulation to learn, developing the worker’s talents, and opportunities to
learn. This factor has been underdeveloped in research aimed at furthering
understanding of employee retention. Other research studies have investigated the

Table 2 Multiple stepwise linear regression: coefficients

Model Unstandardized Standardized t Sig. 95% confidence

coefficients coefficients interval for B

B Std. β Lower Upper

error bound bound

(Constant) .267 .201 1.328 .185 −.129 .663

Appreciation and stimulation .669 .042 .670 16.054 .000 .587 .751
Leadership skills .143 .042 .145 3.450 .001 .062 .225
Learning attitude −.086 .042 −.089 −2.044 .042 −.169 −.003
Pressure of work −.190 .046 −.190 −4.159 .000 −.280 −.100
Seniority .014 .005 .139 2.907 .004 .004 .023
Level of education −.095 .039 −.110 −2.436 .015 −.171 −.018
E. Kyndt et al.

relationship of employee learning with job satisfaction (Rowden 2002; Rowden and
Conine 2005), but not with employee retention. Firstly, although job satisfaction is a
key factor for employee retention (Meisinger 2007), job satisfaction is not the same
as employee retention. Secondly, these researchers have investigated workplace
learning, whereas this research has taken into account stimulation for personal
development. In summary, the positive contribution of appreciation and stimulation
is consistent with the findings of earlier researchers, but the current research has
examined retention from another perspective. In particular, the importance of
personal development to employees is contributing further to the understanding
about employee retention and also creates new possibilities when attempting to
enhance employee retention. Another aspect of the learning and working climate that
was measured was pressure of work, which was shown to have a significant negative
relationship with employee retention. This finding has a series of implications for
workplace norms and practices, and is problematic, because potentially it could be
used by employers to argue against the provision of skill development in workplaces.
However, what is proposed here is that the inclusion in work practices and norms of
a rich array of experiences and opportunities for learning may well assist increasing
the retention of skilled workers. This finding was anticipated from the literature
regarding earlier research, which has indicated that a healthy balance between
professional and personal life is important for employee retention (Hytter 2007;
Walker 2001). A high pressure of work does not contribute to a healthy balance.
Besides the organisational factors, personal factors can also play a role in the
retention of employees. This study shows that individual differences can enhance or
reduce employee retention. Self-perceived leadership skills and seniority are positively
related with employee retention. It seems that respondents with a longer career within
the company feel more strongly connected to the company and tend not to leave. The
level of education and readiness and initiative to learn relate negatively to employee
retention. This finding could suggest that employees with a readiness and the initiative to
learn want to be challenged in their current job and want to have the opportunity to learn.
A negative relation between the level of education and employee retention is in line with
the findings of Angle and Perry (1983) and Glisson and Durick (1988).
Findings of this study show the importance of considering both the personal
(level of education, seniority, self-perceived leadership skills, and learning attitude)
and the organisational factors (appreciation and stimulation, and pressure of work)
when investigating employee retention. The interplay between organisation and
person is crucial when determining and meeting the needs of skilled employees in
order to secure their ongoing engagement with the workplace.
The fact that employers were not willing to release information about their high
potentials and the fact that the perceptions of the employees themselves were used in
this respect could have blurred the results. Investigation of this aspect of the research
question, using more objective measures for identifying high potentials, may be an
interesting topic for future research. Prior research on employee retention with a
focus on learning was limited, and therefore the construction of questionnaires used
in the current study was based on the literature. The findings that have been
described are very interesting and promising. However, further research is needed to
verify the factor structure and the relationships found. Moreover, since all companies
participated on a voluntary basis, most respondents received the questionnaire by
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives

e-mail or the intranet and had the opportunity to participate in the quantitative part of
this research. Future research could investigate whether results are different when
employees in different functions participate, what the differences are between the
different groups of employees, and whether their function has a predictive value for
employee retention. It would also be interesting to expand this qualitative part of the
research to make a systematic analysis of the data possible.

Appendix: Overview factor items and factor loadings

Factor items independent variables

Factor 1: Appreciation and Stimulation (explained variance 16.91%, α=.94)

5. The executive staff try to understand the problems employees experience in their work.
6. On the job I have sufficient opportunity to use my personal talents and use my initiative.
7. The executive staff in this company seem to make an effort to be nice to the employees.
11. At work there seems to be an honest interest in the things I’m doing outside of work.
12. The executive staff in this company always appear to be ready to give advice about how I can
learn something new.
14. We can criticise the work regulations and our criticisms are heard.
19. When reforms are implemented, it’s because somebody had a good idea which was implemented.
28. My company gives me the opportunity to get training in subjects that interest me.
30. My company stimulates me to think about where I stand and where I need to get to achieve
the company goals.
31. In this company they believe in me.
35. In this company people can really choose what work they want to do.
36. At work I am doing stimulates me to develop myself in things that I’m not yet very good at.
37. The company motivates me to develop, if possible, my own work-related interests.
38. In this company I have the opportunity to organise my work so that it fits the way I learn.
39. For a large part, I determine how I work.
43. There are lots of ways that I can choose to learn.
46. Our ideas and interests are taken serious by executive staff.
48. My company gives me the opportunity to specialise in my strengths.
49. Most executives make an effort to get to know us.
51. I have the feeling that I have to put my own ideas aside to meet the corporate strategy.
52. In my job I have the opportunity to do something with my skills and knowledge.
53. In my job I am stimulated to think about the skills that I am good at.
55. We have a lot of freedom of choice when it comes to the tasks we have to do.
56. My executive appreciates it when someone has a new way of looking at a problem.
Factor 2: Leadership Skills (explained variance 10.03%, α=.89)
1. I can communicate, present and give a speech well.
8. I can convince everyone of the correctness and necessity of the ideas and actions I propose
and undertake.
9. When doing my work I use my creativity and inventiveness.
15. I think of feasible and concrete actions that are in accordance with my personal vision and goals.
20. I can assign task to the right people in a clear manner.
E. Kyndt et al.

22. When I’m speaking in a group, I draw everyone’s full attention.

27. I’m able to motivate others to do their tasks as well as possible.
33. When I’m working in team, I easily take the lead.
34. I know very well what my strong points are.
40. I make good decisions, even when I’m under pressure.
42. I find myself capable of taking on an executive function in this company.
44. I have an executive function in this company.
50. Others in this company see me as someone who takes the lead easily.
57. When an unexpected situation occurs and people panic, I remain calm.
Factor 3: Pressure of Work (explained variance 6.59%, α=.88)
17. The work pressure is too high here.
21. I sometimes think that my job asks too many different things of me.
25. The constant pressure of work—things that need to be done, deadlines and
competition—make me tense and sometimes depressed.
26. There is a lot of work to do.
41. Within the company a lot of the time the focus is on my weaknesses.
54. As an employee I am put under a lot of pressure.
Factor 4: Following Procedures (explained variance 6.10%, α=.81)
13. When I do my work, I follow the instructions closely, even when they are not in line
with my own ideas.
16. When innovations are made, it is usually because management has decided on a corporate
strategy and corporate goals and we then try to accomplish these goals as well as possible.
24. In my job it is very important that I do what is expected of me as closely as possible.
32. Usually when a problem occurs I rely on procedures that are dictated by the company.
45. In this company, expectations are that I should spend a lot of time on learning.
47. For most situations at work, procedures are enforced by the company.
Factor 5: Learning Attitude (explained variance 5.14%, α=.80)
2. When I want to learn something that can be useful in the workplace, I take the initiative.
3. To gain insight into a complex problem, I let my imagination run free, even when a solution
does not seem to be close at hand.
4. I love undertaking activities on my own initiative.
10. Some subjects that arise during work are so interesting that I investigate them further,
even when it is not necessary for my work.
18. I love to accept complex and challenging tasks.
23. If I get the chance to learn, I will definitely take it.
29. I think it is important to learn throughout my life.

Factor loadings independent variables

1 2 3 4 5
1. ,496 ,402
2. ,422
3. ,483
4. ,487
5. ,604
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives

6. ,656
7. ,417
8. ,478
9. ,465
10. ,628
11. ,432
12. ,641
13. ,616
14. ,576
15. ,424
16. ,554
17. ,786
18. ,479 ,444
19. ,533
20. ,509
21. ,628
22. ,552
23. ,599
24. ,690
25. ,749
26. ,712
27. ,634
28. ,583
29. ,691
30. ,620
31. ,683
32. ,640
33. ,711
34. ,507
35. ,567
36. ,681
37. ,704
38. ,505
39. ,423 −,431
40. ,612
41. ,480
42. ,728
43. ,655
44. ,580
45. ,439
46. ,732
47. ,718
48. ,724
49. ,713
50. ,758
E. Kyndt et al.

51. −,480
52. ,669
53. ,742
54. ,816
55. ,555
56. ,554
57. ,427

Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. Rotation Method: Varimax

with Kaiser Normalization.
Rotation converged in 6 iterations.
Values under .40 suppressed.
Factor items employee retention

Dependent factor: Employee retention (explained variance 49.13%, α=.91)

a. I’m planning on working for another company within a period of three years.
b. Within this company my work gives me satisfaction.
c. If I wanted to do another job or function, I would look first at the possibilities within this company.
d. I see a future for myself within this company.
e. It doesn’t matter if I’m working for this company or another, as long as I have work.
f. If it were up to me, I will definitely be working for this company for the next five years.
g. If I could start over again, I would choose to work for another company.
h. If I received an attractive job offer from another company, I would take the job.
i. The work I’m doing is very important to me.
j. I love working for this company.
k. I have checked out a job in another company previously.

Factor loadings employee retention

a. ,791
b. ,789
c. ,621
d. ,768
e. ,494
f. ,820
g. ,658
h. ,734
i. ,534
j. ,815
k. ,586

Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis.

1 components extracted.
Values under .40 suppressed.
Employee retention: organisational and personal perspectives


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Eva Kyndt is a Phd student at the Centre for Research on Teaching and Training at the University of
Leuven (K.U.Leuven), Belgium. She is doing her doctoral study on the influence of workload, task
complexity and student characteristics on student approaches to learning. Her other research interests are
talent management and workplace learning.

Filip Dochy is professor of teaching and training and corporate training at the Centre for Educational
Research on Lifelong Learning and Participation and the Centre for Research on Teaching and Training at
the University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven), Belgium. In his research he concentrates on new learning and
training environments, new modes of assessment on teaching, and trainers’ lifelong learning in teacher
training and corporate training settings. He is a former president of the European Association for Research
on Learning & Instruction (EARLI, and editor of the Educational Research Review.

Maya Michielsen is a master student in educational sciences at the University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven).

Bastiaan Moeyaert is a master student in educational sciences at the University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven).

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